Behind Our Walls, A New Afterword
Editor’s Note : The print edition of Behind Our Walls is soon going to be re-released with some new content, including a brand new afterword from the author. Check it out here, first!
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It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly where the story of Behind Our Walls came from. In the beginning, this entire universe began with a short story, titled Tomorrow’s Memory. I wrote it largely as a challenge to myself. I wanted to try and create a story entirely through journal entries. I wanted it to take place on an apocalyptic landscape but I didn’t want the focus of the story to be about walking from point A to point B of how the world collapsed. It seemed to me that that story has been told often enough. I also didn’t want to bring any supernatural elements to bear on this.
I wanted it to be a human story.
I’m a big fan of George Orwell’s 1984. And one aspect of the book I’ve always found chilling is the manipulation of people to achieve the ends of the state. Eliminate revolution by removing the lingual ability to express discontent. The political landscape and the “enemies” of the people need to change? Just rewrite the history books to agree with your new reality.
The point is that I was intrigued by the idea of a survivor in the apocalypse using a journal as a way of speaking to future generations, to maybe plant the seed for a solution that could be generations away.
While it is only mentioned in passing in this story, I was intrigued by the idea of a football stadium being used to rebuild a community. If it could be secured from the outside, there would be a great deal of space for a group of survivors to come together, with luxury suites being used essentially as apartments. I think that wanting to explore this further was a big part of what led to a longer book.
I was happy with how the story came out and it was included in my debut collection, Borrowed Time : And Other Tales. And at the time, I assumed I was basically done with it.
In early 2014, I decided that there was a larger story to tell here. The snapshot provided in Tomorrow’s Memory was interesting enough but I wanted to back out and put out a more traditionally structured narrative.
The main character Of Tomorrow’s Memory only makes one appearance outside of that short story. At the end of Behind Our Walls, we see Fiona for the last time as she is about to approach a pair she has come across on the road. She makes mention of one of them writing in a journal. Did you catch that one? The pair she encounters is indeed Stella and our unnamed narrator from Tomorrow’s Memory. I don’t suspect we will see him again and I kind of like that he is simply an anonymous figure. I think his status as a symbol is more important than his actual name.
When I wrote Tomorrow’s Memory, I was intrigued with the character of Fiona and found myself wanting to give her a larger role, to see more of what she was like. Also crossing over from Tomorrow’s Memory was the author in the final entry of the infamous journal, Sophia. With two characters set firmly in my head, I went about to the task of building a story around them.
The book grew. And grew. And grew. As I often tend to do, I was trying to tell a story that was just too ambitious for a single book. A large crux of my issues seemed to be around the character of Fiona.
In the early drafts, Fiona was a cruel, unsympathetic character, similar to how she ended up being in the book. I seemed to think that she needed to be softened and made to be more complex so, denying my early instincts, I pulled a vintage George Lucas Mos Eisley reversal and tried to increase Fiona’s humanity.
It didn’t work.
Put simply, the narrative of the story was dancing around all these characters so much that it ended up not being about any of them, really. Fiona might have been more sympathetic but she was less engaging for the reader. After some key advice from a friend, I made the decision to pare down the book and did so spectacularly. The book was about 100,000 words at that point and I think I cut close to 30,000. All of the chapters from Fiona’s point of view were removed. In one case, I took a scene in which Fiona and Nairi are kidnapped by a man in the woods. Nairi is raped. The chapter containing this went away but I decided to give the scene to Sophia and Corrine, keeping that essential character element to the story.
Besides cutting back on Fiona and returning her to the vicious character she was from the start, I also stripped away most of the first sections of the book, choosing to start things literally in the middle of the drama. The specifics of the origins of this universe isn’t as clear but I think the opening we ended with was much more powerful. When I wrote the first paragraph, starting up in the moments immediately following the killing of Sophie’s mother, the tumblers clicked in my head and I immediately knew I had made the right decision. The story that followed was much more tight and focused than any previous incarnations.
As I said previous to this, Behind Our Walls is a human story. It’s about keeping the story at ground level without the loud, booming narrative voice. It’s about these characters that have been dumped into their own collective nightmares and how they struggle to find themselves again.
One aspect that was important to me was that, while the story is bleak and harsh, there are also elements of optimism. I think it’s important to remember that even in the depths of the darkest corners of our souls, there is still a potential for goodness. There is still a possibility and a reason for hope. Living in the world, nowadays it has been harder to hold on to that. So while the book was written well before our most recent Presidential election, it has been nice to have been able to turn back to this story.
So the question at this point is where the franchise will go from here. I can say with certainty that there will be two more books. The second of the trilogy, From Across Their Walls will be released in 2018. The story is not a sequel, really. The protagonist is a new character, although there will be some familiar faces. And this will start at a similar point, running alongside Behind Our Walls for some time before splitting off on its own, occasionally crossing paths with the progression of the first book. I’m happy with how this story has shaped up and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you.
And as for the third book, there isn’t much I can reveal at this point. It’s still very early on and it won’t start to really take shape until the second book is completely finished. I can say that like the second book, a new central character will be introduced and the story will have some time to walk on its own legs before joining up with the collective narrative.
In the end however, I have to make sure I give thanks to all of you who have taken interest in Behind Our Walls, which to date has been my most successful release. It’s a world that I have loved creating and I’m looking forward to spending a little more time there.
Thanks for being there with me.
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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page